Montana Outdoors

April 17, 2011

Two sets of tracks

The trail I hiked upon today spends nearly all of its time at the dark bottom of a very deep canyon, but as it nears the end of its first mile it climbs up the east mountainside for a short distance to avoid some really nasty terrain and there a few rays of sun can penetrate to warm a small place of a hundred or so feet and provide a comfortable bed for a sprinkling of early wildflowers; today, Yellow Glacier Lilies.

Glacier LilyYellow Glacier Lily, Avalanche Lily, Dogtooth Violet, Erythronium grandiflorum

After hiking just a few hundred yards past the lilies I could see snow banks covering the trail and I knew that not far beyond that point the trail would be buried under deep piles of snow as it again settles into the canyon bottom and I decided to go back down.

Spring Creek trail

As I turned around I began to wonder about the tracks that I could see in the snow and, because they were quite large and up to that point my tracks were the only ones on the trail, I thought they were probably those of a bear, and ventured up to the snow to see if there might be tracks of a new cub as well. But they were not bear tracks.

Track of the wolf(For perspective, from the front of the pistol barrel to the rear sight is 6 inches.)

I was careful to leave a clear set my own tracks right beside those big paw prints to let their maker know that he is not the only lobo who roams this part of the forest.


  1. Beautiful star flower there…
    The gun and the tracks – um, scary!!! Glad you are brave to be out in that wilderness! Stay safe!


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — April 17, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

    • There is always something interesting somewhere along a trail. No, not brave Stacey, just prepared.


      Comment by montucky — April 17, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

  2. That’s one big print! I’m assuming it was wolf?

    Note of interest: Did you put “the vessel” back into the water?


    Comment by Iona — April 18, 2011 @ 12:54 am

    • It was. Yes, I re-launched the vessel. I think about it often too and wonder where it is on its journey.


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 8:18 am

  3. Yikes!


    Comment by Roberta Warshaw — April 18, 2011 @ 6:31 am

    • That was a very big paw. Sure wish I could have had a look at him!


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 8:19 am

  4. Perhaps a more odoriferous marker might have been appropriate, as well. El lobo needs to be even more wary of the two-leggeds, given what seems to be happening in our nation’s capitol.


    Comment by Dave at collinda — April 18, 2011 @ 7:27 am

    • That’s for sure! And the rest of us too! Common sense, good judgement and apparently integrity, are not in vogue.


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 8:24 am

  5. I’m sure you know better than I would, but I thought Mr Lobo would be obliged to leave claw marks at the tips of his toes, and I can’t make them out in your photo. Could this have been Mr Puma instead? He can retract those claws whereas Mr Lobo cannot.


    Comment by jomegat — April 18, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    • No, it’s definitely wolf. The claw marks don’t show in this photo because the snow had melted a bit. There were very big claw marks in other prints.


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

  6. Hi Montucky, Lovely flower. Wow! A Wolf. Imagine that but you were up in the mountains. It is rumored that we have Wolves here in Cumberland County, TN but I think the people seeing the animals are mistaking Coyotes for Wolves. Now in the Smokey Mountains, well, maybe so. Have a wonderful Monday!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — April 18, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

    • There is a huge controversy about the wolves here, but most folks never get to see one, including most of those who are loudly against them. It’s a rather sad state of affairs.


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

  7. I’m not much for guns but totally understand why you carry one hiking the back country in Montana. Hopefully, you will never have to use it but it’s always good to be prepared… lovely image of the flower… Did you mean to label it Dogtooth Fawn Lily? Or have I been calling the wrong flower a Dogtooth Violet? (anything is possible!)


    Comment by Victoria — April 18, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

    • That pistol has been on my hip on thousands of miles of hikes in the back country, and twice it saved me from pretty bad problems. Prudence dictates carrying a firearm, especially when hiking alone as I nearly always do.

      I have no idea where the “Dogtooth” name for this species came from, but I have heard the folks in this area call it that since in the 40’s. I think this species is different from the fawn lily, with which I am not familiar and there seems to be a lot of confusion about what is what.


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

  8. Beautiful flower with a lovely name. Still nothing blooming in the wild yet here, at least in my neck of the woods.

    You have all sorts of large wildlife out there, don’t you? I sure can see why you carry a gun on your outings.


    Comment by sandy — April 18, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

    • Our wildflowers are still rather late blooming this year for the most part because of the cold spring (it snowed today), but they are starting. There have been a lot of surprises.

      We do have a lot of large wildlife here. I carry the pistol mostly because there have been quite a few instances of cougar attacks on people, but it has saved me from a couple of situations with bears that would otherwise have been very serious. Wolves are really not one of my concerns at all.


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

  9. I heard a wolf howl on the backside of my house a couple of years ago – and I don’t live out in the woods.

    The wildlife is sometimes very close when I am in Kopparberg. A lynx got hit by a car in the village a couple of years ago. Things like that shouldn’t really happen, should they?


    Comment by Staffan H — April 18, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

    • There are many instances of wildlife coming into our towns here too, Staffan. It’s very sad when it cause them to be hurt or killed. In the smaller towns near here it is very common and usually nothing serious happens: we are used to it. Lynx are very rare here and having one of them hurt would be very sad!


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  10. Very pretty dogtooth violet and nice pistol! I grew up with guns and used to shoot… kinda give me the fever.


    Comment by kcjewel — April 18, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

    • The pistol is a S&W Model 19 .357 magnum, a good choice I think for back country hiking.


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

  11. So can you legally shoot a wolf or other large animal or do you use the noise to scare it off? That is a huge print!
    That is a really pretty flower, but I don’t think it is what I grew up calling dogtooth violet. We had a few inches of snow this morning and still waiting for most wild flowers to bloom.


    Comment by kateri — April 18, 2011 @ 7:27 pm

    • I prefer of course to have the concussion of the magnum discourage an animal. If there is an imminent threat to one’s life, the laws permit killing an animal (or a human for that matter) in self defense. that must have been a very large wolf!

      From what I understand, “dogtooth violet” refers to a trout lily, but for as long as I can remember, the folks around here have used it also for the glacier lily.


      Comment by montucky — April 18, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  12. My, that is a huge paw print! Nice gun. I wonder if that wolf, perhaps an old and wise wolf, was nearby watching. Great photos. 🙂


    Comment by Anna — April 19, 2011 @ 10:18 am

    • I doubt that he was still around. The tracks were at least an hour old. He might not have been too far though because there would have been deep snow up higher.


      Comment by montucky — April 19, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  13. Nice wolf print. You left quite a print behind for the wolf to consider.


    Comment by Wild_Bill — April 19, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

    • A year ago I ran across some wolf tracks in the snow on an old road. I happened to return there a few days later to find he had returned and left his tracks on top of mine. I then returned the favor.


      Comment by montucky — April 19, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

  14. That is a gorgeous lily–never seen one quite like that before.


    Comment by Bo Mackison — April 19, 2011 @ 8:27 pm

    • That particular one was fully open. Usually the petals curl back, but it was one of the very first to bloom this year.


      Comment by montucky — April 19, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

  15. How wonderful it must be to perhaps see a wolf in his natural environment. Such wondrous animals.


    Comment by SuzieQ — April 19, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

    • I hope to see some wolves more toward summer. I see their tracks often but when the trails clear up I will be able to get further into their country. Despite all of the hype by the anti-wolf crowd, they are not always easy to find.


      Comment by montucky — April 19, 2011 @ 11:36 pm

  16. Wow. Do you have a moment of fear when you see something like that or more of excitement…or respect?


    Comment by Candace — April 19, 2011 @ 10:30 pm

    • More interest than anything else. I really enjoy seeing tracks and other signs of wildlife. It’s part of the experience of being in natural, wild country. Yes, I do respect them for what they are and for their heritage as vital parts of the vast biological diversity that maintains the health of our planet. I try my best to quietly fit in.


      Comment by montucky — April 19, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

  17. Great flower shot Terry…the wolf print is amazing, what a wonderful find that is !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — April 21, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

    • Some time I will find a wolf standing in one of those tracks. They are not all that easy to find in person!


      Comment by montucky — April 21, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

  18. The flower is very special looking and of course I have not seen it.

    I am glad that You have something more long than Your arms with You when outdoors there.


    Comment by sartenada — April 22, 2011 @ 1:19 am

    • There are a number of possible problems that can arise in the back country and so I am always prepared for them.


      Comment by montucky — April 22, 2011 @ 11:07 pm

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